Interview with John Jackson Miller

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Knight Errant is Miller's first novel, and he does miss some of the advantages that come with writing comics: "In the comics I have the advantage of working with some of these great artists that can really take my descriptions and then go forward and visualize things. And then of course once they've done the initial designs on things, well, then I can elaborate on them in the future. I did not know what some of the spaceships looked like that I asked the comics artists to come up with, and then once they did I was able to get story springboards from them, because I then knew what they looked like and I was able to think about them." The spaceship Diligence, an important setting in the novel, was a bit of a hurdle at first.

"My son and I actually built the thing out of Legos," said Miller, "so I would know what it looked like."

In comics, explained Miller, the writer is like a director, "because you can tell the artist where to point the camera, so to speak, and what's going to be in each scene... but in prose the imagination is the canvas, so you have to provide everything yourself, and it's something that takes some adjustment."

But novels do have some advantages over comics: "Something that I really like about prose is that I'm able to get into the characters' heads a lot more and say what they're thinking. We don't really do thought balloons in comics anymore, and I've never done much internal narration in my comic style as it's developed. In the novels, there are sequences where characters will be alone and you'll get to see the monologue, you'll get to see what's going on in their heads, and where there'll be multiple characters and you'll get to see what one person actually thinks of the other. That's very obvious stuff, but I like the fact that each one of these media has their different strengths to them."

He's also excited to reach a new audience: Star Wars novel readers who may not have been exposed to the comics. "We're not going to make it so that you have to read the comics to understand the novel or have to read the novel to understand the comics, but I think we've done some things that will make people want to read them," he said. "The fourth issue of Knight Errant, which comes out on the 12th of January, has a preview of the novel in it, and then when you get the novel on January 25th, that has a color preview of the comics in it."

As to whether this tight integration between comics and novels is something to look out for in future Expanded Universe works, Miller couldn't say. He did note, however, that the integrated continuity of the Expanded Universe so far has set it apart from other licensed products: "The thing that was so clever about the creation of the Expanded Universe... was the decision that everything counted, the decision that what happens in the cartoons and the novels and the comic books and games, it all has the same weight. It all happened. Previously, no matter what the license was, everything just sort of hung out there as, well, this is a licensed product. Here's a novel about a movie or here's a novel about a TV show, and it's great and it's wonderful, but it's pretty much interchangeable with a T-shirt... [Star Wars has] made an example for other licenses that have fiction or games or anything else out there. You really do see people realizing that the maintenance of the universe and making sure that everything works is important to the reader, and is a pretty good source of goodwill."

Because everything in the Expanded Universe does count, Miller acknowledged that doing research can be overwhelming when you're starting out: "I didn't know everything that I needed to know about the Knights of the Old Republic video games when I started that comic series. And the fact that we didn't set it any closer in time probably reflects that I was wary of moving into an area where I had not played every single moment of the game, every single version -- dark side, light side -- I hadn't seen every possible thing that might come up, that somebody would say later, 'This actually didn't happen this way.' Certainly when looking at something like Knight Errant, it was refreshing that there wasn't quite so much out there that I needed to brush up on to hit the ground running. That said, it's part of the job. I'm working on Mass Effect at the same time, I'm learning that as I go along, too. It's part of what you do to work in these worlds."

On the subject of his favorite Star Wars character, Miller said, "I think I've always been a Lando guy. I enjoyed the fact that he was a character that had multiple sets of -- I don't know about loyalties -- but he certainly was always looking for the angle in The Empire Strikes Back. His interests were a little bit more complicated than everybody else's." Although Knights of the Old Republic featured con artists and "scoundrels," Miller hasn't had a chance to work with Lando or other characters from the Star Wars movies -- "but who knows what'll happen in the future."

Read more from John Jackson Miller at his website, Faraway Press. The Lost Tribe of the Sith novellas are available as free downloads.
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